Book review: I Can Speak Bully

A little boy learns how to stop bullying by being kind. Photo: Mai Kemble

SILVER SPRING, Md, March 16, 2013 ― I Can Speak Bully by Kevin Morrison illustrated by Mai Kemble ISBN: 9780809167449

With bullying being so much in the forefront of public consciousness these days, this is a timely book. The unnamed hero of our book has a problem that many children can relate to: He is picked on by a bully. The boy is subjected to common bullying assaults, like arm punching, lunch stealing, and name calling, and like every bullied child, his feelings are hurt. He asks his mother what to do saying the other child, “speaks in bully, and I don’t understand it.”

The response she gives him is simple and smart: The bully may really be sad and acting touch because he is lonely and wants a friend. She says our hero might actually understand the bully because they are probably alike and suggests trying to be his friend.

Photo by Robynlou Kavanagh.

The next day the boy goes to school a little nervous, but is determined not to let the bully bother him. When he sits down at his desk he smiles and greets the bully. When the bully scribbles on his homework, the boy ignores it. When it is time for lunch, the boy beats the bully at his own game and offers him a treat before the bully can take it. Finally, the boy tells the bully he would not mind being friends because sometimes friends are hard to find.

All through the charm offensive, the bully tries to be mean, but with each kind act he starts to soften. Finally, he agrees to be friends and the boy’s bully problems are no more.

This is a great book for all children, but especially those who are just entering into social situations for the first time, like preschool, or those who are starting to experience bullying. While it is true that not all bullying can simple be solved by smiling and offering a cookie to the offender, it is often true that bullies pick on those they do not know or understand. In this context, the idea of trying to become the friend of a bully seems a likely way to defuse the situation. The ideas presented in the book are a positive approach to handling a bully, but if you want your child to take a similar route, you need to remind him it may not work the first or second time. He needs to be persistent, and it can be hard to be nice to someone who is mean to you.

Photo by J. Aaron Farr. Click to enlarge.

The story is written in rhyme so it is easy to read and flows well. The illustrations are eye-catching watercolors that fit well with the story and capture the tone perfectly.

Published in 2009 by Ambassador Children’s Books, I Can Speak Bully is available only in hardcover.


Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook or Google+. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times. Find more reviews of children’s picture books at Big Reads For Little Hands.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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